Divineguma is first ever community-controlled department: Basil

Thursday, 1 May 2014 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa stated that the Divineguma Department is the first ever department that is controlled by an administrative body appointed by the people, and opportunities afforded for all its activities administered by community organisations. This was stated by the Minister at a ceremony organised on Sunday (27) in connection with the commencement of official duties at the department’s head office and Zone I office at Battaramulla. The head office of the Department is established at Castle Street, Colombo 8, while six Zonal Offices have been established covering the whole island. Accordingly, these Zonal Offices have been established at Battaramulla (Zone I - Colombo District), Wariyapola (Zone II - Kurunegala District), Peradeniya (Zone III - Kandy District) at Buultjens Road (Zone 4 - Hambantota District), Meththa Mawatha (Zone V - Anuradhapura District) and Mannar (Zone VI - Vavuniya District) respectively. While Minister Rajapaksa declared open the Head Office and Zone I office, other Zonal Offices were declared open by the relevant Additional Director Generals under the auspices of regional political leadership. Participating at the inauguration ceremony, Minister Rajapaksa stated: “Today is a very happy day for me. Since today is my birthday as well, I wonder how painful it would have been for my mother at my child birth. I had to undergo such difficulties to form this department. Not only was it painful, but the President obtained the approval for this at great risk. I think all Ministers are aware, how difficult it was to get the approval, if not for the President. I had to establish this Department to honour a promise given during the tenure of Minister Pavithra Wannniarachchi. She had promised, with the concurrence of the President, to make all the employees permanent and grant them pensionable status. This was a very big challenge. However, we had also realised that while we are doing this, something equally should be done for all the beneficiaries in the country as well. That is why we established this Department. “The departmental system was introduced by British to control the countries under colonialism. This departmental system exists in these countries. Under this system, while controlling the country, they managed to send across all the resources of the country to their queen.  Departments like the Audit Department were established for the purpose of collecting taxes from the people in time. We also had to go to courts when the relevant Act was presented, deviating from this system. I explained that this is not a department of the traditional system, but a department intended for the benefit of the people of the country. Those who instituted legal action and those in the courts did not understand this simple truth. It is our own employees who instituted legal action, irrespective of those who passed judgments. This department came to light in such a painful situation. Today I am very happy having been involved in this process. If we are to achieve complete success, we will have to visit every village, every household in order to find redress for the people, thereby converting them as the real administers of the department. “Therefore my earnest request to you is to fulfil their requirements. At the same time, I undertake to fulfil your requirements if any. That is what the President has entrusted to me. I will undertake to look after the future of the employees. However, I cannot do things in my way alone. There is Public Service Commission. There are circulars. There are trade unions. All have to be adhered to. There is a workforce of more than 30,000 in this department. In my Ministry there are more than 100,000 employees. They have a great responsibility to work towards the upliftment of the people. We need around Rs. 18 billion for their salaries alone. Around Rs. 9 billion is needed to pay the newly appointed Economic Development Officers. So, do not fail in your duty. I have great confidence in you. “This department has three pillars. First are the departmental officials, running down from the Director General. To make matters easy, we have established six zones, taking into consideration the geography of the country as well as economic patterns of the people. From the beginning we have decentralised the power. There are six Heads of Departments. This was done in order to distribute power, when handling a project of such magnitude. Second is the CBO structure. This has representations from village level to a national congress level. This is the first time an administering body has been included in the department over and above the Head of the Department. This is the only department in the country which is administered by the community. Therefore it is close to the people and controlled by community-based organisations. The Samurdhi Officer is not an administrator but a facilitator.  This is similar to our cooperative system. We should allow the people to run the department.  We have only to guide them and provide facilities. “Third is the microfinance network. The success of any organisation depends on the financial management. Rural poverty is the result of non existence of financial power. When compared with the richest people in Colombo, the villager is in stronger position. This is not a commercial bank. It is bank of the community. I do not wish to open a commercial bank with hard earned money of the poor people as a capital. This is a turning point in the lives of the Sri Lankan people. “The main responsibility of the Divineguma Department is to fulfil every requirement of the people. Presently our economic growth rate has gone up to 7.3%. I have received a letter from an European country saying that Sri Lanka is heading the list of five best countries for investment. Therefore I am the happiest person in the country. The President has change the trajectory of the country. Everybody has worked with devotion. I expect the same devotion in the future too.” Peoples representatives including Senior Minister A.H.M. Fowsie, Minister of Power & Energy Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Deputy Minister of Provincial and Local Government, Indika Bandaranayake, MP Duminda Silva, Provincial Health Minister Hector Bethmage and a host of senior state officials including R.A.A.K. Ranawka, Director General of the Divineguma Department were among the large gathering on this occasion.